Against the Current, No. 109, March/April 2004

Against the Current, No. 109, March/April 2004

Women in a Neoliberal Order

— The Editors

FEMINISTS AND HISTORIANS of the Middle East were a bit surprised last year when Laura Bush made a radio address defending women's rights -- in Iraq. An unlikely champion of women's causes at home (The Economist of London, not a radical magazine, rates her “low” on feminism) from reproductive freedom, affirmative action or equality in employment to social services women need, Ms. Bush found in women's rights a convenient pretext for boosting her husband's imperial crusade in another country.

Martin Luther King's Speech on Vietnam

— Malik Miah

ON JANUARY 20, President Bush made a photo-op visit to Atlanta, Georgia, to participate in the celebration of the life of the greatest civil rights figure in American history, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bush's decision came after a three-year presidency that has worsened the economic conditions for a growing numbers of African Americans. Unemployment is once again in double digits. Health care is declining. Segregation in education is on the rise. Expectations for a better life are at its lowest level in more than a decade.

New Setback as Mumia's Struggle Continues

— Steve Bloom

IN A NEW legal setback for one of the world's best-known political prisoners, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on October 9, 2003 rejected Mumia Abu-Jamal's petition for a hearing on new evidence in his case. This evidence includes a confession by another man, Arnold Beverly, that he fired the shot that killed Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, the crime for which Mumia was convicted and sentenced to death.

The Coming Plague of Slums

— Mike Davis

MASS DEATH MAY be coming to a neighborhood near you, and the Department of Homeland Security will be helpless to prevent it. The terrorist in this case will be a mutant offspring of influenza A subtype H5N1: the explosively spreading avian virus that the World Health Organization (WHO) worries will be the progenitor of a deadly global plague.

A Short History of Big Brother

— interview with Christian Parenti

CHRISTIAN PARENTI IS the author of Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror (Basic Books) and the earlier Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis. He is currently reporting from Iraq for The Nation. Suzi Weissman, an editor of Against the Current, interviewed him on her program Beneath the Surface on radio station KPFK (Pacifica in Los Angeles), November 10, 2003. Many thanks to Walter Tanner for the transcript, which is abridged for publication here.

Colombia Against All Odds

— Forrest Hylton

DESPITE HISTORIC TIES to the inmost nexus of cocaine trafficking and aramilitarism, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez is Washington's leading exponent of the “war on drugs and terror” in the Western hemisphere.

At the inauguration ceremony of President Nicanor Duarte in Paraguay on August 15, 2003, on Uribe's initiative, and excepting Hugo Chavez, South American presidents signed the “Declaration of Asuncion,” a pledge of loyalty that placed “the war on drugs and terror” at the top of the region's foreign policy priorities.

California Home Care: Terminated!

— Barri Boone

Question: WHAT'S THE BEST health care plan in the U.S.

Answer: Don't get sick!

This used to be a bumper sticker eliciting smiles. Now it is the sad state of affairs. George W. Bush plans to privatize Medicare, and in California the other shoe has dropped.

Random Shots: Let It All Hang Out

— R.F. Kampfer

IT'S VERY THOUGHTFUL to plant a tree when you won't live to see it full grown. It's even more thoughtful to plant it far enough away from the house so that it doesn't choke the gutters.

From the incredibly passionate debate over the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, you wouldn't guess that most people in the neighborhood hardly glanced at the Towers when they stood.

Palestine - The Occupation and Geneva

Sharon's Ballons & the Plan

— Uri Avnery

DECEMBER 13, 2003 -- He is at it again, and again it is working. He is launching colorful balloons, and the whole world is looking on with rapture and wonderment.

Ariel Sharon needs to divert attention. His popularity has dropped in recent opinion polls. The Geneva initiative has captured the national and international agenda. The police investigations into his corruption affairs have reappeared in the headlines.

Anger, Sadness, Patience, Determination

— Marian Kromkowski

DURING THE FALL of 2002 I had heard the personal stories of two Palestinians. One told me about her grandfather's ancient olive trees that had been confiscated and then chopped down by the Israeli government.

Another told me how his 84-year-old grandmother had died, in his uncle's vehicle at a checkpoint, after being denied permission by Israeli soldiers to travel to a larger city for medical attention. These personal stories and other post 9-11 events led me to expand my understanding of this conflict.

The Reality of the "Geneva Accord"

— a public statement

THE GENEVA ACCORD was signed Monday, December 1, 2003, amid great media and political fanfare. The fifty-page document lays out a plan for a presumed “peace agreement” between Israel and the Palestinian people. We, the undersigned, consider this initiative as inconsistent with the prerequisites of a just and durable peace for the following reasons:

1. It attempts to nullify the Palestinian right of return, both as a collective national right and as an individual right. By doing so, it...

Jews, Arabs & the Geneva Accord

— Yehudit Harel & Dr. Amr El Zant

TALKING PUBLICLY ABOUT the virtues and hazards of the Geneva accords these days is not an easy task, as the topic is both highly emotional -- rightly so, as a matter of utmost importance -- and highly divisive.

Yet precisely because the matter is so important we should not act emotionally but in accord with a plan as level-headed as we can devise, with as much a sense of proportion as we can amass. And it takes little sense of proportion to see that perhaps we cannot overcome the deep divisions right now; but we also have little time for coming to an agreement. For otherwise, decisions will be made for us, and they will not be better than those that either side offers now.

Jewish Statement in Opposition to the Geneva Accord

— a statement

A FALSE PEACE is no peace at all. A peace not based on human rights and justice will collapse and rekindle violence.

For International Women's Day

A Century's Feminist Journey

— Val Moghadam

INTERNATIONAL FEMINISM -- AND feminist internationalism -- have  existed since at least the early 20th century, but forms of women's organizing and mobilizing have varied over the past 100 years. Since the 1980s, a new transnational feminism -- encompassing Third World countries as well as the core countries -- has emerged which requires explanation.

Organizing Korean Contingent Labor

— interview with Ae-Lim Yun

AE LIM YUN is an activist in Solidarity for the Abolition of Contingent Work, in Seoul, South Korea. At age 30, she holds a doctorate in labor law and -- a contingent worker herself -- works as an instructor in labor law at several universities, among them Seoul National University. She and her organization work with the Korean Federation of Trade Unions. Last summer she traveled in the United States, Mexico, and Brazil in order to advise her organization on the contingent workers movement in those countries. While here she agreed to an interview with labor educator and writer Dan La Botz, which we conducted on July 22, 2003.

Portraits of the Unionista

— Jeanette Heinrichs

LIKE ALL WOMEN workers, Filipina workers' experiences in the labor force are shaped by gender. Tracked into the lowly-paid service economy doing “feminine” labor, they often have dead-end jobs with a secondary wage-earner status. In mixed-gender unions and labor movements, their status is also secondary.

Women workers, however, are fighting the sexism of the workplace and labor unions with their own strategies.

A Feminist Reader for Today

— Angela E. Hubler

The Socialist Feminist Project:
A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics
edited by Nancy Holmstrom
(NY: Monthly Review Press, 2002). 426 pages, $26 paperback.

EACH TIME I teach History of Feminist Thought at my university, in order to highlight the limitations of a gender-only feminism and to exemplify the strengths of socialist feminism, I show my students "Salt of the Earth" (1954), a deeply moving and inspiring film based on a successful "predominantly Mexican-American" miners' strike in which the miners' picketing was blocked by the Taft-Hartley injunction.(1)

Chronicles of A Long War

— Dianne Feeley

Bearing Right. How Conservatives Won the Abortion War
William Saletan
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003) 327 pages, $29.95 hardcover.

BEARING RIGHT IS a provocative account of how the mainstream women's organizations and abortion rights groups battled to maintain legal abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision thirty years ago. The author concentrates on their work in lobbying state legislators and Congress, endorsing candidates for public office and campaigning around various state referendums.

The Recovery of August Bebel

— Soma Marik

Men's Feminism: August Bebel and the German Socialist
Anne Lopes and Gary Roth
Amherst, New York, Humanity Books, 2000), 261 pages, $52 hardcover.

MEN'S FEMINISM SETS out with an important purpose -- rescuing August Bebel, the leading 19th century German socialist leader who authored a pioneering text on women's liberation, Women and Socialism. This is not a biography of Bebel, but a study of Bebel's interaction with women's rights issues.

Women's Lives on the Left

— Alan Wald

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES BY WOMEN affiliated with Communist and socialist organizations are a marvelous resource for investigating radical political practice and culture beyond the perimeters of official doctrine and party resolutions.

Such narratives usually interweave episodes in left-wing history with details about the personal and daily lives of militant women variously seeking their own liberation in the context of fighting to abolish capitalist exploitation, patriarchy and white supremacy.


Black Liberation and the American Dream

— Chris Clement

Black Liberation and the American Dream
edited by Paul Le Blanc
(Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2003) 311 pages, $25 paperback.

RACE HAS ALWAYS been the most visible source of division in the United States. Slavery, segregation, and the current ethnic profiling of the “Arab-looking” are just a few of examples of racism in American history.

Ending Poverty As We Know It

— Peter Ian Asen

Ending Poverty as We Know It:
Guaranteeing a Right to a Job at a Living Wage
William P. Quigley
Temple University Press, 2003. 245 pp (inc. notes, bibliography, and index), $54.50 hardcover; $17.95 paperback.

THE PHENOMENON OF local living wage campaigns sweeping the country is one of the few causes for celebration in American politics. Led by unions, community organizations and religious groups, Americans are demanding that their local tax dollars fund jobs that pay a living wage.